A 21-year-old Whangarei resident has initiated a new way of buying and selling produce by connecting small producers with consumers through an online not-for-profit food co-operative.
Early this month, Sean Stanley announced the formation of the Northland Natural Food Co-operative - a regional, online food co-operative based in Whangarei.
Before emigrating from Canada in 2010, Mr Stanley's family was part of an online local food network and it is the Oklahoma Food Co-operative and the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op models that Mr Stanley has based the Northland initiative on.
Each month, producer members post what they have available on the co-operative's website. Members have one week to place orders. Producers then deliver the ordered produce to a base in Whangarei, where the co-op's volunteers will sort everything into customer orders. The orders are delivered by volunteers and delivered at sites across Northland.
There is no minimum scale required to become a producer in the NNFC.
"Even if a producer has only one grapefruit tree in their backyard, they can still sell through the co-op,"said Mr Stanley.
However, producers should use natural growing techniques, such as non-certified organic, biodynamic, spray-free, permaculture principles which they will be asked to verify.
Consumers and producers pay a one-time membership fee to become either a consumer or producer. This will help cover the start-up and operational costs of the organisation. The co-op will charge a percentage of sales to cover ongoing business expenses but will run as a not-for-profit organisation.
To find out more, attend an information meeting on February 21 at the Old Library meeting room in Whangarei, or register interest by going to the organisation's website, www.foodco-op.org.nz and adding your name to the email list.
"By helping local producers and consumers form relationships we hope to build a system of honesty, caring and trust: where producers are motivated to feed their neighbours well and affordably, and consumers are motivated to support natural food producers and see that they get a fair price for their products," said Mr Stanley.